On April 13, 2020, a decision was filed by the Minnesota Court of Appeals that reversed a Hennepin County District Court’s decision regarding awarding an “abandoned” dog to the Respondent who had been caring for the dog for the original owner. The timeline of the events pertaining to the case began in about 2014 or 2015, when the Appellant asked the Respondent to care for her dogs, Oliver and Alex, while she was away at school in California. The agreement was verbal and informal. In 2016, Appellant brought her smaller dog, Alex, back to California with her, but Oliver remained with Respondent. Approximately one year later, Appellant attempted to visit Oliver, as she had done in the past, but the Respondent would not permit a visit. Appellant reported Oliver as stolen, but the police did not intervene.
After further unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the Respondent, Appellant sued him in conciliation court, and the court ordered Appellant pay the Respondent for Oliver in order to obtain ownership. Dissatisfied, Appellant moved the case to district court, where it was ruled Appellant abandoned Oliver, to which Appellant appealed. The district court determined Appellant “had personal notice that she was abandoning Oliver” in 2017 by leaving Oliver and taking Alex. However, the court of appeals determined that Minnesota Statutes section 345.75 supplanted common law in the matter. Minnesota Statutes section 345.75 requires a person be given notice via certified mail, or by personal notice, that they have abandoned property (in this case, Oliver) and ownership will be transferring within 30 days if the property is not claimed. Since Respondent did not tell the Appellant, orally or in writing, that he considered Oliver abandoned by Appellant, and did not provide Appellant with a timeline for removing Oliver or else Respondent would then take possession, then no notice was given to Appellant of her “abandonment” of Oliver. Ownership was restored to Appellant by the court of appeals due to that lack of notice provided by Respondent that Oliver was abandoned and that Respondent would be taking over ownership.
Take note, it’s important to know the terms of your agreement if you are storing an item, or leaving a pet with someone to care for. It is just as important to understand the proper legal steps to take rightful ownership of property that you consider abandoned. You can read the court of appeal’s opinion at https://mn.gov/law-library-stat/archive/ctappub/2020/OPa190907-041320.pdf.